Ask The Simple Question [on Merely A Thought Monday]

“Simplicities are enormously complex. Consider the sentence “I love you”.” ~Richard O. Moore, Writing The Silences

I’ve been told again and again that, at the heart of every complexity, there is a simplicity. And, of course, at the heart of every simplicity, there is a complexity. So, either way you go, there you are.

I find that I am yearning for greater and greater simplicity. I appreciate quiet. I avoid crowds, not “like the plague” but because of it. I’d rather be in my studio or on a trail than almost anywhere else. I wish I could go sit in a museum all by myself, in the quiet for an hour or two, with a Chagall or Picasso. Intentional beauty. I feel like the world is so full of extraneous noise and dedicated bloviating that I’m having trouble hearing the simple essentials.

And, perhaps because my desire is for simplicity, I find that I am, like Frankie, projecting simple solutions on to everything. Yes, 9 million dollars in my bank account would solve everything!

Almost.

Do you remember Rodney King? I was in Los Angeles when he was beaten, when the city was aflame after the acquittal of the officers who beat him. Do you remember what he asked? It was the ultimate simplicity: “Why can’t we all just get along?”

I think it would take something more than 9 million dollars to solve the complexity to which Rodney King spoke. There probably isn’t enough money in the world. But, here in my dedicated simplicity, I think the opposite should be true. Rather than cost anything, getting along would probably save all of us a lot of money, and time, and heart ache. Getting along would profit all of us.

It costs nothing to open a door for someone. Put a price on gratitude. I can’t. How much does it cost to tell the truth? What about making sure everyone is safe and well fed, that everyone can walk safely down the street, that people are paid fairly, that the rules apply equally to all, that, if you’re injured or become sick, you will be treated and not lose your house in the process?

It doesn’t seem like that should be so far out of reach.

There I go again. At the heart of every simplicity…

read Kerri’s blog post about 9 MILLION DOLLARS

See The Good [on KS Friday]

“…the measure on ones mental health is the ability to see the good in everything. Perception is the key.” ~ Kristine Klussman, Connection

If I kept a gratitude journal, my entry yesterday would be that Bruce was happy. I could hear it in his voice. Although it had been seven years since we last spoke, we talked like we were picking up a conversation from yesterday. Life has changed dramatically for both of us.

It seems we have both reached the revelation of simple appreciation. No longer focused on the big stuff, we talked of the sweet moments, the moments that feed our souls. He asked me to describe my days and I was happily taken aback to tell the tale of walks on trails, beginning each day writing posts with Kerri, ending each day with a glass of wine. Drawing cartoons. A dog that runs enthusiastic circles. Good friends.

I am reminded again and again that goodness is not found in the world. It is brought to the world. We don’t perceive what is already “there,” we wrap what is “there” in a story-blanket. We give it meaning. And then we feel the impact of the meaning we give it. Viktor Frankel famously wrote that “Happiness ensues.” It follows. Despair ensues, too. Anger, too, if that is what is brought.

Earlier this year a friend asked how Kerri and I were doing amidst the job losses and broken wrists. I responded that our circumstance was dire. It was. It just didn’t feel that way, so full was our sense of appreciation. In the midst of a dire circumstance, we started our days writing. Good friends called. DogDog ran enthusiastic circles and made us laugh. We sipped a glass of wine at the end of each day and enjoyed our simple meals. Today, things are less dire and, although we are still standing on shaky ground, we start each day writing together. We hold hands and take walks. We breathe deeply the smell of coffee in the morning. Our gratitude for our days has not changed a bit. Good moments are everywhere.

And today, Bruce is back in touch. He is happy and his happiness, like all happiness, comes from a hard decision that took tremendous courage: he decided to see the good. To bring light. To be light. He is doing the work of savoring the good moments that he now sees all around himself.

good moments/this part of the journey is available on iTunes and streaming on Pandora

read Kerri’s blog post about GOOD MOMENTS

good moments/this part of the journey ©️ 1998 kerri sherwood

Knead And Listen [on Two Artists Tuesday]

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I am now among the legion of people that turned to baking bread during the pandemic-stay-at-home era. This loaf is gluten free, made with rice flour, since Kerri is allergic to gluten.

In truth, I’ve wanted to bake bread since I knew Brad the baker in California. He was a genuine hippie, a believer in peace and simple living. “Bread is a living thing,” he once said as I watched in fascination his kneading of the dough. You can tell a true master craftsman at work by watching their hands. They feel something in the dough or the wood that the rest of us do not.

My loaf was not made by a master. Not even by an apprentice.

Bill sent a photo of his first loaf and I asked for the recipe. It came as screen shots and I scribbled them into a recipe on notebook paper. Easy steps to follow but I knew from watching Brad that I would not find in my recipe any easy guidance on how to feel the life in the dough. That would come with time. Maybe. If I was lucky and diligent and practiced listening through my hands.

I’m not surprised people are turning to bread during this time of pandemic uncertainty. It is essential. The making of bread, the cultivation of wheat, made civilization, as we know it, possible. It is, therefore, a central symbol in many belief systems. Separate the chaff from the wheat. A time for harvest. This is my body. Eat.

Brad told me that the dough kneads you as much as you knead the dough. It’s a simple relationship between living things and requires complete focus. Mutual respect. Attention must be proffered.

Perhaps that is why we turn to bread in times like these. Simple relationships of attention and mutual respect are increasingly rare. Bread reminds us of what is possible, what is healthy. It reminds us of the patience that is required if we are to find our way to harvest. It reminds us of the necessity of knowing what is chaff and what is wheat, or remembering that there is a direct relationship between what is planted and what is grown.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about BREAD

 

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Find The Quiet [on DR Thursday]

 

 

I paint figures. I’ve never been a landscape painter or a painter of abstracts. I want to touch the spirit within the body.  I want to wander through the inner landscape.  I want to find the quiet-power places.

I didn’t know what to call this painting so Kerri named it A Little Modesty. I liked the name. Synonyms of modesty: unassuming, humility, simplicity. These are quiet-power words.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about A LITTLE MODESTY

 

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a little modesty copyright 2012 david robinson

Dance A Simple Dance [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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“Simplicity. Patience. Compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.” ~Lao Tzu

“Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.” ~ Steve Jobs

I am at home in my studio. Even during the times – like now – when my well is dry, I go into my studio and the world makes sense. It is quiet. My intention is pure: I seek an experience, an exploration, not an achievement. In other words, I enter into a relationship with something so much bigger than me. It is a simple dance with no end. The paintings are a map of this relationship.

Krishnamurti wrote that “stillness is the act of worship – not going to temple to offer flowers and pushing the beggar aside on the way.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately (thus, not being still;-) in our world of angry competing narratives. Screaming moral high ground. All the shouting down of others. All the static and noise and agenda-masked-as-righteousness. The celebration of the lie (the official term is a ‘post-truth world’). The difference between rhetoric and lived realities. We ask almost every day, “How does this make sense?”

Rome fell. Ask Google the question why? and you’ll get a list of eight simple reasons. Over reliance on slave labor. Military overspending. Government corruption and instability. The loss of values. Weakened and eating themselves from the inside out, they became exposed to easy invasion. Lots of noise. Loss of center.

We know there is no sense to be made so we walk in our beloved Bristol wood. We walk the trails next to the Des Plaines River. We walk the streets of our neighborhood. We hold hands. Simple. We talk about the leaves, the color of the sky. Kerri takes photos of things that catch her eye. Beautiful shapes. Geese flying en masse. An ancient tree. Radiant purple vines climbing from the ochre grass.  We attempt to leave the angry noise even for a short while, to dip our toes into the quiet.

Yesterday we came to the end of the trail and heard a bagpipe playing The Water is Wide. It was lovely. Haunting. So out of place yet so perfect. It made sense. We stopped and listened as the music reverberated through the woods. It brought us fully into the moment. The cool air and sun. The music mixing with the rustling of the leaves. No where else to be. Nothing to change or control or get through. Simple.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about keeping things SIMPLE

 

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Simplify [on DR Thursday]

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Horatio challenged me to do something different. I’ve long wanted to explore simplicity of line and image so I took his prompt. Simplicity. There are few variations of this image.

When I get back to the studio I will pick up my brushes and Horatio’s prompt. I could use a walk back into simplicity.

This version is Judy’s favorite. So many of my conversations with Judy are about a healthy inner life – and how there really is no separation between inner and outer life. It’s a word game to dice life up into boxes. It’s a simplicity and the thread is easy to follow: as within, so without.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about INNER LIFE

 

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inner life, 36 x 24IN

 

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sacred series: inner life ©️ 2017 david robinson

Make The Climb [on Not So Flawed Wednesday]

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Roger and I used to talk about art in terms of levels of sophistication. For instance, no one masters an instrument the first time they pick one up. There are layers of learning necessary before the musician “knows” how to play. The “knowing” has little to do with the accumulation of information and everything to do with giving over to what the body learns. Finally, it is a letting go (of the mind) into an undefended sharing. Flow. It has nothing to do with knowing and everything to do with availability. This ‘availability to experience’ is what we called sophistication.

Both the artist and the audience pass through layers of greater sophistication. The artist wants greater and greater challenges. The audience wants greater and greater challenges, that is, they want to participate in something that demands more from them. It requires that both artist and audience show up, open, give over. Union is the ultimate purpose of art. Participation in something greater than your self. That is how art informs and transforms.

And then, there is the flip side, the anti-art. You can feel it. The absence of the genuine experience. The demonstration of accumulated knowledge. I cringe when a curator launches a three-masted-ship-of-study that tells me what the art is about, what the artist felt, and what I should see and feel. When the actor attempts to control what I see, when the art is so conceptual that it precludes me or anyone save the artist from entering the conversation, when the  knowledge priest stands between me and my god…you’ll know the levels of sophistication have left the building when the conversation is one way, judged, controlled.

Kerri calls this the blah-blah. When a real moment is disrupted by an agenda, when the flow is dammed by an unnecessary display of knowledge. And, the kicker is, we are all guilty of it. I am. It is a necessary step in climbing the ladder of sophistication, slipping back down the ladder of sophistication. To confuse technique with art. To garble the necessity of the open heart with  the realm of the intellectually abstract.  To give a standing ovation to something that put you to sleep. To try to control what the other person sees or thinks or feels; a fool’s errand. The great artist trap. The great life trap.

And, the best you can do (truly, the best thing), is to catch yourself in the moment of blah-blah, laugh at yourself lost in the trap, pull out the ladder, and begin again to climb toward simplicity.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about AN UNNECESSARY DISPLAY OF KNOWLEDGE

 

 

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Hope [on KS Friday]

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Somewhere in my reading I came across this notion: discontent is the source of all creativity. Hope must be like that, too. Yearning. Expectation. Desire. To want something or someone who is not there. It is sweet and bitter.

Anyone who tells you that life cannot be simple and complex at the same time has not loved or aspired to dream. Don’t believe them. The simple desire to know never leads to a single answer but it does open greater and greater vistas. Ask a physicist. Or a mystic. Or someone in love.

Particle or wave?

Hope maybe despair re-imagined. It may be a left hand path calling. A dream that seems too big to consider. For a moment today, listen to Hope. Pull up the anchor and follow the wind. Listen. Close your eyes and see where Hope might take you.

 

HOPE on the album THIS SEASON available on iTunes, CDBaby. CD’s available at Kerri’s store.

 

read Kerri’s blog post about HOPE

 

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hope/this season ©️ 2005 kerri sherwood

Show Up [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Sometimes something is so obvious it actually needs to be said. The real difficulty in this life is not arriving at the finish line but showing up to the starting line. This phrase, a quote from our Life Below Zero addiction, encapsulates the essence and great challenge of many of my coaching clients – of most people. There is often a glass wall between yearning and action. I wonder how many times in my life I’ve offered this phrase: the actions you need to take are never the problem; the challenge is the story you wrap around the actions.

It comes down to this, yet another simplicity: starting brings change. Start the race and you will never be the same. Start the race and there’s no guarantee what you will learn or find. You may win or lose or simply not finish. You might learn that you are in the wrong race or that you care nothing for races. But mostly, there is this. If you take another look at the quote you’ll discover the crux of the matter is not about lines, it is never really about beginnings or endings. It’s about showing up. It’s about taking action on the thing that you most yearn to do. Or be. It’s about showing up, being seen. Starting requires a relinquishing of control.

Damn! There’s so much complexity in simplicity!

 

read Kerri’s blog post about SHOWING UP

 

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See Simply [on DR Thursday]

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Kerri’s morsel choice often surprises me but none more than this week. She took a close up photo of my painting We Watch The Setting Sun, flipped it over, made two copies, left one untouched and manipulated the other. “I want to use both!” she announced with THAT look in her eyes. “It reminds me of a hillside in the fall.”

I write this often, perhaps too often, but it matters: through the morsels I am discovering simplicity.  In her Autumn Hillside set I see the freedom of my brushstrokes. I see the collision of thick paint and thin washes. I see simple color that, in its movement, serves as a suggestion. Less is more. Nothing else is needed. I understand Mark Rothko. I appreciate Ad Reinhardt.  I am seeing their work through new eyes.

New eyes. Could there be a greater gift for an artist, for someone who has worked his entire life at ‘seeing?’

“Don’t you love it?” Kerri asked of the morsels. I smiled. Yes. I love it.

 

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read Kerri’s blog post about AUTUMN HILLSIDE

 

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autumn hillside/autumn hillside night ©️ 2018 david robinson & kerri sherwood